Title: Bursting Bubbles in Underwater Ice Contributing to Rapid Glacier Retreat, Reveals Study
Researchers from Oregon State University have made a groundbreaking discovery that could potentially explain the rapid retreat of sea-terminating glaciers. The study, recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience, sheds new light on the role of bursting bubbles in underwater ice and their impact on melting rates.
Tidewater glaciers, found in glacierized regions such as Greenland and the Antarctic Peninsula, have been experiencing significant ice mass loss. The Oregon State University study reveals that glacier ice containing pressurized air bubbles melts at a much faster rate compared to other types of ice.
While the presence of bubbles in glacier ice has been known for some time, their influence on melting at the ocean-ice interface had not been previously explored. To investigate this, the researchers conducted lab-scale experiments.
The results of the experiments suggest that the bursting bubbles could be the missing link in explaining the disparity between observed and predicted melt rates of tidewater glaciers. The explosive bursts and resulting buoyancy created by the bubbles energize the ocean boundary layer during melting, leading to accelerated ice melt.
Surprisingly, current models used to forecast ice melt rates at the ice-ocean interface do not take into account the presence of bubbles in glacier ice. This oversight has significant implications for accurately predicting sea level rise, as data from NASA currently attributes about 60% of sea level rise to meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets.
By more accurately characterizing how ice melts, predictions of glacier retreat can be improved. This knowledge is crucial for effective planning and preparation in the face of rising sea levels.
The research was made possible through funding from the Keck Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Geographic Society. In addition to researchers from Oregon State University, scientists from the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and Rutgers University were also involved in the study.
As our understanding of the dynamic processes contributing to glacier retreat expands, it is clear that bursting bubbles in underwater ice play a significant role. Further studies in this field will help refine predictions and support efforts to mitigate the impacts of rising sea levels.